Paul HillWhen I was a child, 40+ years ago, and long before then, sexual abuse and assaults on children and adults in lots of communities was brushed under the carpet, put aside. You were told that you’d be punished if you speak out, no one would believe you. In many cases, if you told anyone, you’d be called a liar. We read of this all the time, we hear of it on the news, see it on social media, and lots of us have been through it ourselves. Including myself.

My mental health has been really poor for much of my life, and it’s only as an adult, having loads of counselling that unravelled why, that I learned the meaning of the trauma which I carried through life.

An additional sexual assault that I experienced as an adult several years ago really set me back. I even questioned why I was put on earth. Was there any point in carrying on? I’m only here to be used and hurt.

I engaged in various therapies, and quite a few admissions to psychiatric wards. Although I was supported, I never felt that, as a man, I was taken seriously by anyone. In my head, and what I’d read, it was women and children who were properly supported, and had refuges and helplines to call, specifically for them.

I was browsing on the web one day, I can’t remember when. I came across a charity that was boys/men specific. That charity was SurvivorsUK. I looked through the information on the pages, and felt almost a belonging. Something that was there for ME.

Shortly, I contacted them, I didn’t say or need much at that time, but it was the way I was treated and the way the communication was dealt with that made me feel understood. So very gentle, kind and empathetic. Reading through other men’s survival stories inspired me to share mine, and I wrote my blog. It was published. My story was out there. This empowered me massively, and I thought that other victims of my abuser may see my story and not feel alone anymore, and would know they are believed. It also gave me a feeling of being worthwhile, knowing other men might read my story, and get strength to speak out themselves.

Then, the decision came to do more, to set up a fundraising campaign, something that I was good at. I hate running, I’ve got terrible social phobia, and don’t do much other than walk my dog! A light bulb moment! I thought…I could walk my dog 10 miles and hopefully raise some money for Survivors UK. I contacted the charity and I opened a JustGiving page. The journey had begun.

During the first week, it became more than a walk with my dog. A friend wanted to join me, then other friends wanted to join me. It was getting bigger.

Paul Hill (2)The actual walk was about 4 weeks away from the start of the fundraising campaign, so I thought I could do something in the meantime that would raise extra funds. Now, I’m good at making welsh cakes! So, yes, I posted on social media that I was making welsh cakes to raise funds for SurvivorsUK. I thought I’d try to raise £300 by doing it, and that was the target. Well, the response was amazing. I was almost continually in the kitchen baking cakes, which I was selling for £1 per pack of 6. People placed orders from far and wide. They not only paid for the cakes, but also donated too, in most cases much more than I would have expected, and the awareness was growing too, of the work that SurvivorsUK do. I live in a small Welsh community, where people speaking out about such issues as sexual assaults is almost unheard of. What I was doing was smashing that stigma, and raising money.

People offered to support me, wanted to know more about SurvivorsUK and seeing all the posts on my social media page was overwhelming. I would never have believed I’d get this response.

To date I made over 240 packs of welsh cakes (around about 1,250 individual cakes) and as the days and weeks went by, the donations kept pouring in. They came from all sections of my community, from other places in the UK and also a donation from across the pond in the US. Local businesses, an MP, doctor and my psychologist gave to my appeal!

The day of the walk had arrived. There were four of us that walked 10 miles, waving a bucket through the community, proudly wearing our WeSeeYou t-shirts. People were stopping us, waving, and the weather was fabulous. We raised almost £80 on the walk with our little bucket, but the majority of funds were made via JustGiving, and money that people kept giving to me. The day after the walk, a local pub offered to double the amount, and gave us another £80!

Because of my continuous campaigning and having followed my journey, a local radio station invited me to be interviewed. Now, being quite a shy, withdrawn person, the thought of this terrified me, but knowing the reason why I was doing it I couldn’t turn this opportunity down. The interview went really well – although I nearly passed out when I was told “14 seconds to going live on air!”

To date, today, as I write this, we’re on our way to raising £1,400, and donations have still been promised, and also the radio interview may hopefully raise the level too.

What, though has made the biggest impact, has been the support I have received and the fact that now nearly everyone knows about SurvivorsUK in my local and wider community. This will hopefully reach boys and men who do struggle and need support. Much awareness has been raised. It’s also given me a purpose, and aided my recovery loads. I think my ‘calling’ (once my recovery and treatment is done), is fundraising, for causes close to my heart, and hopefully that will make lives better, for everyone, including male survivors of sexual abuse and assault.

Paul

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